Dwight Freeney’s career has been stellar over the past 14 seasons in the NFL collecting 115.5 sacks. Ever since the Indianapolis Colts drafted him with the 11th overall pick in 2002, the Syracuse product has been a star in this league consistently putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and offensive linemen. In his 14 seasons, Dwight Freeney has relied and perfected one specific pass rushing move that has become his calling card. This move is the “Spin”. In this breakdown, we will take a look at the technical aspects of his spin and how he has been using it to become one of the NFL’s top 20 sack leaders of all-time.
Two weeks ago after analyzing the Cardinals’ blitz packages versus the Cincinnati Bengals, I purposely left out their first sack in the game on Andy Dalton and it was none other than Dwight Freeney using his signature spin move. Let’s break down this play.
First, Freeney lines up in a Wide-9 alignment well outside the Bengals’ tight end #85 Tyler Eifert. Freeney drives up the field attacking the outside shoulder of his intended blocker: left tackle #77 Andrew Whitworth. This outside speed rush pushes the blocker backwards and outside at a faster rate than he could handle opening the door for the spin. Additionally, Freeney uses his inside arm to make sure Whitworth can’t get both arms on him as the blocker oversteps working his way to the edge uncontrolled.
An offensive lineman’s natural response is to lean into their defender at this point to maximize their body weight advantage while forcing their defender outside. Whitworth attempts to do this, but Freeney uses the mistake against him. Freeney feels the shift in body weight as the tackle overcompensates. He plants his outside foot down turning back inside towards the quarterback.
Freeney finishes the spin by lifting his right elbow to assist his turn back inside opening his hips and shoulders. This uses Whitworth’s momentum against him and pushes him away as Freeney drives towards Andy Dalton for the sack.
The spin move actually helped the Cardinals beat the Vikings earlier this week.
Going over the steps I outlined above you can see that he:
- Drove towards a point outside his blocker’s body, i.e. the outside shoulder, which causes the offensive tackle to move at a faster rate outside then he could manage.
- Waited until he felt a shift in Matt Kalil’s body weight leaning completely against him uncontrolled.
- Swung his outside arm back inside to complete the spin opening up his hips and shoulders.
- Angled his pursuit towards Teddy Bridgewater for the strip-sack and game-winning play.
Freeney has been using this move to perfection since he entered the league. Here are two of his sacks back in 2010 against AFC South opponents while Freeney was still an Indianapolis Colt. The first is on David Garrard in Week 1 agains the Jaguars, while the second was on Matt Schaub in Week 8.
Both of these plays show a better illustration of the “ice pick” technique that is used at the end of the spin. The “ice pick” is the final aspect of the spin technique where Freeney drives his hand into the back of a beaten opponent to propel himself towards his target. Watch closely as Freeney pushes off the back of his opponent, especially in the second sack to get to Matt Schaub.
Now this move is not unique to Dwight Freeney. Here is an example of Von Miller, of the Denver Broncos, using the spin move to get to Colin Kaepernick.
Last, but not least, here is a change-up to the traditional spin technique: the fake-spin by DeMarcus Ware. The left tackle is beaten and he knows it after Ware starts his spin. He attempts to recover, but Ware is a step ahead. Ware stops his spin early opening up the door for him to get to the quarterback.
When does the spin move fail? If you leave out any of the above four steps I mentioned it fails. Here is an example of 2015 NFL Draft prospect Shane Ray -now with the Denver Broncos – showing a horrible spin move.
In this play, Ray never drives hard enough to the outside shoulder of his blocker. This allows the tackle to remain square and keep Ray inside his block. Ray is impatient and spins too early not pushing his blocker far enough outside. This results in an ineffective spin move. The play does result in a sack, though, due to the tackle-stunt over the middle of the defensive line (not because of Ray).
Now that Freeney is 35 years old his prolific career is just about finished. Just like legendary Reggie White and his “hump” move, Freeney will forever be known for his spin move.
Follow Samuel Gold on Twitter: @SamuelRGold.